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King Crimson - In The Court Of The Crimson King CD (album) cover


King Crimson


Eclectic Prog

4.63 | 4188 ratings

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Prog Reviewer
5 stars This is a tough album to review, because while it is not perfect, it is one of the most historically significant prog releases, and King Crimson is one of the most historically progressive bands ever to adopt the label.

What we have here is the very first release from Robert Fripp, a man of few words (if I remember right, he's written one line of lyrics ever in his forty years of producing important music) but of much ambition. While he will eventually come to be known as a guitar great, this album features very little in the way of Fripp showcasing his fretting talents. Instead, we have spacey and melancholic music punctuated by superb drumming from Giles. Do not get the impression that this album is boring, though. Vast oceans of mellotron and such like it, while they have become more or less a prog cliche by this day, give this release a wonderfully dark vibe. Greg Lake's voice, one I've always felt was underused in ELP (and, for the most part, in King Crimson, too) shines above much of the music with a fervor that is downright inspiring. His bass work also foreshadows the efforts he would put into ELP, except in the context of King Crimson, I find his playing both more exciting and more tasteful. In the Court of the Crimson King is a perfect debut for King Crimson, displaying their range of styles from highly aggressive to softly melancholic to experimental.

The album opens with a vicious kick, 21st Century Schizoid Man. This song became an anthem of sorts to King Crimson, inspiring a lot of bad puns over the next number of decades. Here we have distorted vocals from Lake (and terrifying bass playing), wild drumming from Giles, some unique guitar work from Fripp, and so forth. Oh, and we have lots of brass that pumps this song into full gear. Dark and menacing vibes just pour out of this track, while the energy levels and the tempo hit peaks that the band won't really touch again till Larks' Tongues or Red. This song perfectly showcases the aggressive, nearly heavy metal side of the band. On my first listen, I was blown away by this song but then uninspired by the rest. Be forewarned: this is not a song representative of the rest of the album. So when you first put this record in, do not expect an album full of upbeat and aggressive tunes.

In direct support of that last statement comes the album's gentle ballad of sorts, I Talk to the Wind. The music is lovely, and some gorgeous flute tinkles over the pastoral setting evoked by the music. Greg's quiet vocals on here are not terribly impressive compared to the rest of the tracks, but the harmonies they hit work quite, quite well. Probably the least unique and inspiring song on the album, but it nevertheless fails to be worthless.

The last song on side one then opens, the spacious Epitaph. Here is where Greg's vocals truly shine. Veritable choirs of mellotron back an anguished and impassioned vocal line. Here is the band's foray into space rock and psychedelia. Overall a very neat song, and a solid way to end that side of the album.

The next half kicks off with the album's longest song, Moonchild. If you are unfamiliar with King Crimson, I can imagine this song being a surprise after the carefully constructed first three songs. Psychedelic strains of this and that populate most of the song, creating an ambiance, an atmosphere, of sad and old music. Not that it's anything rehashed or uninspired. But trust me, chances are this will be every new listener's least favorite track off the bat; however, this one does grow on you. It fits the mood of the album perfectly, and it provides absolutely haunting sounds to bring the album to its conclusion, the title track.

The aforementioned title track kicks the album into the highest gear it's seen since 21st Century Schizoid Man, but don't mistake that sentence to mean that this is remotely similar to that song. Rather, we have a verse from Greg Lake that sounds almost minstrelsy. Each verse culminates in a haunting (that word again) harmony among several voices set to sound like a choir, all riding on top of a wave of thick keyboard sounds. The drums get a serious workout in this track. This tune is, despite its odd chorus of sorts and for the most part lack of words, strangely catchy. It wraps up the album with a gentle punch to the nose.

In the end, this is probably one of the most important prog albums ever written. It was instrumental in the wave of 70s progression, and still stands today as an interesting and unique experience. I don't see how any fan of any sort of classic prog could get by without owning some King Crimson, and I don't see how any fan of King Crimson can get by without owning this album. This is almost a necessary addition to any prog music collection, in my opinion. It's not perfect, but it is about as close as they come.

LiquidEternity | 5/5 |


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